By 2024 NASA hopes to land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon and that’s incredibly exciting given the technological advancements we’ve seen since the last crewed mission to the Moon since 1972.
Among those many, many improvements is autonomous vehicles, cameras that allow us to get a view of a distant planets and more.
These, and several other technological advancements, have come together in a conceptual design for a lunar spelunker called DAEDALUS or the Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures.
DAEDALUS has been designed by the Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg in Germany and it is currently being evaluated by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Concurrent Design Facility as part of a larger study of lunar cave mission concepts.
This little hamster ball would be lowered into a cave’s entrance where it could then roll about exploring what the ESA is calling lunar lava tubes. It’s believed that lava flowed through channels below the Moon’s surface billions of years ago. Being able to study these lava tubes would give researchers an idea of the Moon’s geology and could potentially reveal the presence of water on the celestial body.
In order to do this exploration DAEDALUS is equipped with stereo camera vision, 3D lidar and it is autonomous.
But you may have noticed a problem with spelunking on the Moon. How would the little robot get power?
The University of Oviedo , University of Vigo and Alén Space are exploring a solution which involves using the crane which lowers the robots to act as a sort of charging hub as well with a “charging head” attached to the end of the crane. This head could both charge the robots wirelessly and capture data from the bots.
All of this exploration may one day help humans who settle on the Moon. Depending on what is discovered down there, settlers could use the tubes for protection from cosmic radiation and other nasty ways to meet your end in space.
Whether any of these concepts sees the light of day is an unknown at this stage but it is exciting to read about.
You can read more about the projects the ESA are evaluating here.
[Image – Julius-Maximilians-University]